This article examines the responsibility of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR), its leaders Symon Petliura and Volodymyr Vynnychenko, and the Ukrainian nationalist movement in general for pogroms during the civil war in Ukraine. It criticizes attempts to disavow UNR accountability by blaming the worst excesses on independent warlords only loosely affiliated to the UNR. The paper argues that the warlords drew on the same well of myths and stereotypes as the civilian and military arms of the Ukrainian state. The warlords, like many UNR officials, believed that Jews were a hostile force in cahoots with the Bolsheviks. The piece also looks at UNR attempts to avert or punish the violence, while also stressing the limits of these efforts. Although UNR leaders Petliura and Vynnychenko did not order the pogroms, their willingness to see the excesses as a product of the Jews’ lack of loyalty to the UNR hampered attempts to prevent or punish the violence. The article describes a complex system of relationships wherein different UNR representatives on the ground clashed, sometimes using force of arms, over the question of pogroms.

issue 15 / August 2019 by Christopher Gilley